Oral & Vision Health Blog

Facing your Fears at the Dentist

Afraid to see your dentist? You have lots of company. Research shows that five to eight percent of Americans avoid dentists out of fear. And, about 20 percent have enough anxiety that they will only go to the dentist when they absolutely have no choice.

But avoiding the dentist is not a workable option. In addition to bad breath, when tooth decay and periodontal disease kick in, serious illness can follow.

But take heart: there are a few coping skills that can help you. Let us look at facing your fears at the dentist.

Root Causes of Fear

  1. Pain

Fear of pain appears to be the biggest reason that people avoid the dentist. If you have experienced significant pain during a dental visit, it is a good bet you are not eager to return. Worse, once you have a fear of pain, your body becomes tense, which lowers your pain tolerance even further. Here are some tips for dealing with pain at the dentist:

Speak up. If you experience pain or fear of pain, talk with your provider about it. You can work together to find ways to reduce your anxiety. Many dentists have methods—such as music, warm towels and even laughing gas—to ensure that the dental environment is more soothing, and the experience is relatively pain-free.

Ask for breaks. If you think you will need a break during treatment, you can create a signal that you and your dental agree on ahead of time. When you give the signal, your dentist will know you need a short break to take a deep breath.

Use relaxation techniques. Make a playlist on your smartphone of your favorite songs to help keep your mind in a “good place.” Aromatherapy really works, too, and lavender is a calming scent. These techniques can help you relax. Slow, conscious breathing also helps, too.

  1. Feelings of Helplessness and Loss of Control

That bright light shining right in your face. Your mouth jammed with dental instruments. You cannot speak. You must sit still and hear those high-pitched drills. And really, all you want to do is jump out of your seat and run! Here are some tips to deal with fears of helplessness: 

Ask your dentist what to expect. You can ask ahead of time about what each appointment and procedure will be like, and what you are likely to feel. If you are seeing a new dentist, consider scheduling an appointment so you can get to know him/her a bit more personally. This can help your comfort level, especially when voicing your anxiety.

Express pain points. Some of us have tooth sensitivity. So, the idea of having a cleaning can cause unease. Let the dentist know if you do, and on which teeth. The cleaning of those teeth can be modified so you are not leaping off the chair.

Muffle the noise. If you are sensitive to sounds of the instruments, bring along ear plugs or noise-canceling headphones. Music also works, too.

Adjust your position. If you feel anxious or experience discomfort because of the position of the dental chair, speak up. Ask the dentist or the assistant to adjust your chair’s position.

Bring something to squeeze. Stress balls are good for that. Maybe one for each hand! Squeeze hard when you are uncomfortable…and breathe.

  1. Negative Past Experiences

If you have had lots of negative experiences at the dentist over the years, that can create a lot of anxiety and aversion. Bad experiences can be hard to move past - but dentistry is always changing. New advances might drastically change your experience. Educate yourself about what is new in dentistry or ask your dentist. Here are a few things to keep in mind. 

  • New tools and technologies have done away with old discomforts. For example, new, panoramic X-rays mean that you no longer must experience those hard tabs when it is x-ray time. And topical anesthetics are more common and effective than ever before! 
  • Training and techniques are always getting better. New training about the use of local anesthesia means that dentists are more initiative-taking in making sure that you will be comfortable during the dental visit.
  • Do not be afraid to switch dentists, either. If your dentist either causes you pain, or insists on ignoring your significant discomfort, you may want to shop for a new one. Perhaps ask a friend or relative knows will be more patient-friendly. Keeping your great smile and overall health is worth it.

Fear can be a lot to deal with - especially at the dentist. We hope these tips help you schedule that much needed appointment and get back on track with your oral health. But do not forget about your finances either! The best way to protect your wallet at the dentist is with dental insurance or a dental discount plan. Get a free month of a dental discount plan on us below and save big at your next appointment!

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